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Turner Close to Viacom Film Deal

Turner is believed to be close to a four-year, $35 million-range, basic cable deal to acquire a nine-title film package from Viacom that includes Paramount’s Mission Impossible 3 and Failure to Launch, with Turner getting the marquee titles for 12% of the domestic box office gross.

Neither Turner nor Paramount would comment.

MI3, the Tom Cruise film that kicked off the summer movie season, has underperformed Paramount’s expectations, with its final tally likely to come in at around $130 million.

Failure, starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker, is in the $90 million domestic ballpark.

Another title in the package, the $38 million-plus grossing Queen Latifah picture, Last Holiday, is also anticipated to wind up with 12% of the gross, while the remainder are said to be in the 8-10% range.

The deal is believed to be a disappointment for Viacom, after a string of movie failures had been counting on MI3 to pull it out of its doldrums.

But even after a poor start at the box office, sources say that until recently it had still been hoping to gross more than $150 million (based on inaccurate tracking results just prior to the movie’s May 5 weekend opening).

It marks the first time Viacom has sold any movie titles since taking over theatrical distribution to television from the syndication division at Paramount in January, which followed the corporate split-up that led the TV wing to be folded into CBS Inc.

The deal is seen as good for Turner, which is in the business of acquiring numerous theatrical films for TNT and TBS while its competitors often cherry pick the most desirable titles.

So far, at least, Paramount is not believed to have struck a broadcast network deal for MI3 or any of the other titles.

Viacom put its 3,500-picture library under its new TV distribution head, Hal Richardson, who formerly headed that area for DreamWorks until that company’s team was melded into the Paramount fold earlier this year.

DreamWorks had a longstanding automatic output deal with ABC and Turner, which kept its sales force from having to shop film packages throughout the industry.